Not a sign of a successful teleconference!
Have you ever attended a teleconference that was frustrating and unproductive? You probably know how many things can go wrong – the technology is confusing or inadequate, there are too many people on the call, you don't know who else is on the phone, mute buttons click on and off, new people enter the call and interrupt the meeting, and people talk over one-another.
With all this confusion, there's often a lack of clarity and closure on any issue, all of which reduces the effectiveness of this potentially invaluable – travel-time- and environment-saving – communications tool.
In a face-to-face meeting, we often rely on "body language" and other visual tools to help us manage participants. But these don't exist in a teleconference, so it can be easy for the chair to seem disorganized and lose control, or otherwise cause the experience to be less than satisfactory. This is irritating for all involved, and it's clearly frustrating when these failures mean that the meeting fails to achieve its objectives. So, what can you do to ensure that the teleconferences you manage are productive and effective?
Our article on Running Effective Meetings gives simple rules and skills for running an in-person meeting. You'll need the same skills to run a teleconference, but you may have to emphasize or slightly change some areas.
When you set up a teleconference, follow two general rules:
Keep the meeting short – The shorter the meeting, the better. Brief, energetic meetings tend to be more productive and less costly than longer ones. Also, people attend them more enthusiastically and evaluate them more highly.
As well as this, your agenda should be relevant and meaningful. Make sure you can reasonably address the intended purpose in the given time frame, and specifically define your expectations. This will increase the chances for a successful meeting.
Limit the number of attendees – Keep your teleconferences to the minimum number of participants that you absolutely need. If there are too many people on the call, you won't make best use of everyone's time. While you may routinely involve all team members in regular meetings, for teleconferences, invite only those who are truly necessary to achieve the meeting's goal.
There may be people who want to simply listen in on a meeting to know what's happening. However, if they can't add to the process and they don't actively participate, consider asking them to read minutes or a transcript afterwards, rather than "attend." (You can point out that this will typically take much less time!)
Outsourced transcription agencies can often be surprisingly quick and cost-effective, if you choose to record the call.
We'll now look at some details you need to plan for your teleconference.
Consider these areas before your teleconference begins:
Before looking at specific suggestions, let's consider the personality of the chair or moderator. The best teleconference meeting managers are those with...
"When I started using Mind Tools, I was not in a supervisory position. Now I am. Along with that came a 12% increase in salary." – Pat Degan, Houston, USA
This ensures that you don’t lose your plan.
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